Decisions, decisions . . . (Josh Wayner for TTAG
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In my last post which you can find here, I detailed my pistol selections for the W5K. You can find my introduction article for the series here. This time I will be talking about carbine selection and my experiences with them last year in this event.

Based on the comments I occasionally read on TTAG, I think many of you find me an insufferable and arrogant millennial who has no business being a gun writer. Well, I’m not going to stop writing, but I will let let you watch me eat a slice of humble pie.

I totally sucked at carbine shooting at this event last year despite bringing what I believed to be a top-tier gun.

These two competitors brought some reasonable guns unlike me. I brought a boat anchor.

The 2020 W5K saw me with a carbine that was probably in the ballpark of nine pounds, maybe even ten. It was a beast and it was decked out in just about every accessory I could find, shot 1/2 MOA at 100 meters, and was set up with a National Match sling in DMR style.

Boy was I in for it. The carbine I brought was actually heavier than my precision rifle.

Right away I began to encounter problems and they were all related to just how clumsy I had made that gun. A significant number of the stages, all of which I cleverly saved for last, involved shooting the carbine one-handed or weak arm.

I did horribly. At one point I was so sweaty when pulling a rope with a weight on it that I couldn’t even aim the gun one-handed. A lot of people were watching and I did really poorly. It sucks to suck.

I also failed to bring the correct sling and it showed. I had to adapt my NM sling to be a two-point and it was uncomfortable to say the least. The hooks kept coming off and I would drop the gun from time to time.

This guy is smiling. My dumb ass wasn’t I can assure you of that.

I ended up going back to my vehicle and started pulling parts off. I took off the scope after about half the stages and shot the rest of them with irons. I eventually began taking off MLOK accessories in a bid to further reduce weight. I knew I had messed up pretty badly and I had no way to further reduce the weight.

The longest stage for carbine was only 100 yards. I had anticipated most of it being a bit longer and I thusly brought far too much gun. I had basically brought a medium weight varmint rifle to the competition, something I would strongly recommend you don’t do.

This year I decided to build out some options that are all very different, yet I feel would give me the best edge for what I expect to find there this year.

Choice #1: USASOC URGI

This carbine is short with a pinned-and-welded muzzle device. It’s a genuine Geissele upper with all the correct NSN numbers and yes, I got the little patch with it. No, I won’t sell it.

The lower is a Brownells BRN-4 in HK style. The trigger and lower parts are all Geissele. In fact, this gun is about 95% Geissele overall, including irons, scope, and mount.

This is a phenomenal carbine. It’s rugged and accurate. I installed a Triad wrap on it for when my hands get slippery (not pictured). It’s the heaviest carbine on this list, but it is substantially lighter than what I took last year.

This gun is also the most flexible in terms of accessories given that I don’t know the distances I will be firing at with it just yet. With the amount of unknowns, I expect to take this gun and I can always remove the scope if I need to should it prove to be just a bit too heavy on tired arms.

Choice #2: BROWNELLS BRN-180

This is one of my favorite full builds and I have it set up for minimal weight and maximum speed. There is just about no weight in the folding stock and the carbine is virtually recoilless thanks to the soft-shooting action and the Q Cherry Bomb brake. The gun just sits there on the shoulder like a loud .22LR.

The rifle is set up with a Trijicon Reflex sight and co-witnessed Scalarworks irons. I have a Velocity 3.5 lb tigger in it that is really crisp which helps speed shooting. This carbine is compact, slender, and reliable and shoots well with both eyes open. As far as it goes, it’s a solid bet for a competition like this if the ranges are mid to close distance.


This is a classic that is basically a featherweight compared to the rest. The old M16 is made fresh here and it handles and shoots like a dream. Not only is it the lightest carbine on the list, it’s also the easiest to handle in terms of not having a pile of accessories on it.

Zeroed with 55gr M193, it’s point blank out to 300 meters, which makes it as simple as pointing and shooting, though irons are a challenge past that in the wind and light conditions at the facility where the 5K is hosted.

This rifle, while certainly a hoot and very fun to shoot, doesn’t have a modern sling setup and it would kill me to muck up the classic lines with a modern style sling. If I end up taking this carbine, it would be a bit of a detriment in that category, but it does have a carry handle which is an overlooked bonus.


Let me know in the comments what you think I should take with me to the Wolverine 5K this year. Should I go modern or retro…or something in between? I will consider all points and perhaps I will be there with the gun you chose for me.

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  1. Why would you pin and weld instead of extra barrel if you must retain length?

    • URG-I uppers only come in 10.3 and 14.5 lengths. The 14.5 is available in near-clone (pinned and welded) and clone (removable) configurations. The near-clone is the choice if it’s not going on a pistol, SBR, or machine gun.

    • Then I’d rather just have extra barrel for extra velocity and flatter trajectory.

  2. #3. You are going to be carrying more than shooting and 100m is a snap with such a combo.

    • Got to say the ol original is likely going to be hard to beat, I’d go m16. All will be swell.

  3. I like #2. Good choice on the trijicon red dot. I have one and find it to be very accurate.

  4. Your running a 5k called the Wolverine and your not using an AK.
    Didnt you see the movie?

    • “Didnt you see the movie?”

      Perhaps he was the ‘John’ who had a long mustache?

      (Relax, Josh. This Gen X’er doesn’t find you insufferable in the least… 😉 )

      • ‘Gen X’er’?! Nice try. Everyone knows you’re an old lonely boomer who wants to make people take the ineffective, dangerous Covid vaccine at gunpoint.

        • “‘Gen X’er’?!”

          That’s the fact, Jack. To the *bone*.

          You’re as right about that as when you kept insisting ‘Haz’ and I were the same person…

          (Paranoia will destroy ya… 😉 )

        • Calls himself “a true patriot.” Does nothing but snipe at patriots from behind pseudonyms.

  5. What!?!? You better choose that M16A1. Why would you choose anything else!?!?

    Before the retro line was a thing I built my own M16A1 style rifle and it’s my hands down favorite rifle.

  6. Possum touched on this but my question goes a bit further . As this is based on a movie does anyone run firearms that were in the movie? It’s been a number of years since I’ve seen the original movie, but I remember the kids arming up with guns from a family member/friend. Good series of articles.

    • “…I remember the kids arming up with guns from a family member/friend.”

      And looting a general store for provisions, including scatter-gun ammo, if memory serves… 😉

    • That wouldn’t happen, if trained by the armed services…

  7. I’d go option A but ditch the magnified optic and just throw a red dot on there. Using a 36 yard zero, you’re good out to 300 yards and can stay within the A zone of an IPSC target. 350 yards and you’re still in the BC zone of the target.

  8. I don’t know how this competition works for shooting, and for my competitions I’m the long range guy but I also built the carbine (it’s mine) and use it for other funz, so… whatever this is worth.

    My set up for a much longer race is pretty basic, and stripped for weight. Yeah, I lose some *functionality* but it’s within what needs to be done and since it has to be carried it 40+ miles… it also has to engage randomly sized targets at ranges of 20-500 meters.

    From my point of view I’d go with the first rifle but you’re not going to like what I’d do with it… also, you could apply all of this to rifle #2 as well, but again, you won’t like it. Which I’d pick depends on the competition itself.

    If there’s no night shooting I’d delete the light, controller and wires. Small weights out on the end of lever makes a big difference, especially when you’re tired. That whole rig is like 1/3rd of a pound out on the end of that rifle. If you don’t REALLY need it, take it off. If you’re used to running it and take it off you might be surprised how much better control you have in driving the rifle for certain types of shooting. It’s just so easy to snap-snap-snap from target to target.

    Shorten the rail by at least 1/3rd. Same reasons. It may cost you the handstop, that’s not a big loss IMHO. IIRC, Geissele makes changing that out pretty easy and offers shorter options. I’d do this. If it can’t be done I’d swap the upper for one that can or comes that way.

    With the sights there are some choices.

    If you need to keep the LPVO then swap that 24.2oz optic out for something more like a Leupold 3x-Vi 2.5-8×36 at 11.4oz, change the optics mount to something like a Nikon M-223 mount, which is, oddly, the best weight to quality ratio I found after spending more money than I’d like to think about. I just saved you close to a pound. We shoot out to about ~500 on unknown sized targets at non-listed ranges, we we keep magnification.

    When/if you go to a mount that can’t be QD’d change the flip-ups to canted irons, I run M-Bus Pros for that personally but… whatever floats your boat. You’re carrying it.

    If you don’t need the LPVO but want speed then drop back to a dot and keep the flip-ups on there as co-witnessed backups. In that case I’d go with plastic but that’s just me.

    If you can do so I’d just drop back to irons and I’d make them metal since their now your primary (and only) sighting option.

    I find that a nicer, padded sling is actually a lot bigger deal than most people make it. I run a VTAC for that in most cases but since we can carry the rifle vertically on a pack I just delete the sling entirely for competition purposes. This depends on the rules of the competition.

    • Hoofing it 40+ miles in one day?

      *Shudder*… 🙁

      • Closer to two days, 40 to 60 miles, land nav + shooting + challenges both physical and mental. Starts Saturday morning, ends Sunday evening.

        You carry a list of required stuff that generally totals out to ~40lbs plus whatever else you want/need. (Weight here doesn’t include your guns, ammo, food etc) You may not ever drop anything on the “required” list, nor drop your firearms.

        You may leave extra gear/ammo/food in a “resupply bag” (a single military duffle for your team) at the base but it stays there and you must return to it for resupply. Run out of ammo in the middle of a shooting stage? Have a nice walk, carrying all your shit both ways, back to go get more which is probably gonna be five miles.

  9. Self-deprecating humor is a sign of intelligence and means you aren’t insufferable.

    I’ll vote for the BRN-180.

    • If you don’t like talking about fun things to do with real guns, you’re in the wrong place. Go back to harassing 13-year-olds on Overwatch.

  10. I ran the Pecos run and Gun last year with the URG-I and a Trijicon 1-4x scope. It worked ok, but the green triangle was tough on targets past a few hundred yards. I have a NF NX8 for this year. The URG-I works great. If I were out to just have fun and not give a crap, the M16A1 would be my choice.

  11. With all that running and exertion, weight is your biggest enemy. I’d go with the lightest and easiest-handling rifle and drop ALL the doodads and attachments, including optics. Was thinking I’d go with rifle #1 and strip it down, but then realized that stripped down is the natural state of that retro AR. Selection made!

    If the longest carbine stage is 100 yards, all you really need on your rifle are good iron sights and a comfortable, functional sling. Your eyes are young; remember the fundamentals and you’ll be okay. If you *have* to add a few ounces, that reflex optic on rifle #2 would be a good way to do it.

  12. “Carbine.” You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

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